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Jan 23, 2011 07:36 AM

Servers vs. Food runners.

Am i the only one out here who greatly prefers it when the server brings out the food instead of food runners? If there is a mistake then the server is able to address it. I there is an issue and you tell the server, it just turns into a game of telephone.

I think around 10 years ago the food runner trend started and it is not one i like.

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  1. I sorta like the food runner gig. For the minimal times that the order is wrog the server gets engaged. If the server were busy running back and forth to the kitchen I would have to wait longer for the server to come to the table when needed.

    Two points though:

    1 - The server should be present at the table when the food arrive just to guide and make sure the order is correct. The old "it's the kitchen's fault" excuse goes out the window under this scenario. Server needs to take some responsibility in the process.
    2 - The server should not ask "how is everything" until the table has a chance to actually try the food. That question is not for the benefit of the server checking the is for the benefit of the customer trying the food and being able to answer with data.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jfood

      jfood--- my biggest issue that that number one rarely occurs (including some 4-star restaurants).

      I also think expectations are different depending on the price tier of the restaurant. I can understand using food runners at Chillis, but I think a higher level of service is expected at a Michelin rated restaurant. I name name many 4-star restaurants in Minneapolis and Chicago where food runners are regularly used and the waiter is rarely seen.

      Part of my bias may be due to the fact that I don't drink alcohol so I know that I tend to get less attention from servers to begin with. And the use of food runners just tend to exasperate the problem.

      1. re: DukeFan

        I guess I have been fortunate on number 1 with about a 75-80% rating. If there is an issue and I have to find the server then we know what happens at the end of the meal. There was one occasion in Chicago when the server took my order and i did not see him til the bill arrived. I placed "zero" as the tip on the charge, walked over to the MOD when leaving and handed him $5 and asked him to give to the runner since he did all the work.

        I am also glad you mentioned that you see a drop in service when the servier is told you are a non-drinker since I am as well. If the service suffers because of this I cut the tip in half and max out at 10%. This happens probably 25-30% of the time.

        1. re: jfood

          This is actually one of the reasons i often prefer eating at the bar. For a bartender i am actually one of their more profitable customers instead if being one of the least profitable for a server

    2. I like the idea of SPS - Single Point of Service. Anything different becomes to confusing at the time of calculating and delivering the tip - for those of us who don't mindlessly thrown down an "expected" 20% - and I truly don't mean that in a snarky manner.

      (more often than not, I've had negative service experiences when multiple people are involved.)

      1 Reply
      1. re: CocoaNut

        Food runners are an American version of the classic European system of Front and Back waiters.

        The function of "food runners' today is to increase check averages by freeing waiters to explain dishes to diners.

        Additionally, guests are protected from the painful perception that waiters are manual laborers who are serfs to guests.

        We are in a celebrity driven culture and the "food runner" trend is an example of this.

      2. I must be really easy to please or something. I hardly ever have bad experiences in restaurants. Maybe my expectation level is low? Somehow, I don't seem to attract the horrible service so many restaurant goers suffer through. And I haven't had a drink in years. Didn't know that was a problem waiting to happen until today.

        I have two friends I no longer eat out with, as they always draw conflict to the table (two separate guys in two separate cities, btw, not a couple). "The waiter didn't do this the way I wanted. The waiter wore the wrong cologne. I had to wait two minutes -- two minutes! -- for my coffee (salad, bill)." I'm sure each has opined voluminously and vociferously on the way food runners ruin the dining experience. But I wasn't there to hear it.

        1. If runners get my food to me faster and hotter I'm all for it.

          1. Food Runners have been around for more than 45 years (that I remember) in steak houses. There is little worse than cold steak, and good steakhouses had runners to make sure the steak gets to the patron in less than 90 seconds of being plated.
            In other establishments, food runners moved food from the kitchen to the wait station and the waiter/ress served the patrons. I have no problem with runners assisting this way.
            I don't like it when the waiter/ress only takes the order and presents the check. This is not enough service to justify the wiater/ress getting a full tip on the check.

            As to mistakes, I simply inform the runnner to get the Manager and let the manager deal woth the errors.

            8 Replies
            1. re: bagelman01

              My experience; which is limited to the 80's as I have been a mid-level bartender for a long time, is that runners make 40% after tipping out the bussers and the captain.

              By the way the captain cannot legally be a manager and share in the tip pool.

              1. re: postemotional1

                Experience and customs vary. I've been in many places with runners and no captains. Also, I know a few local restaurants where runners get only 15% of the waiter/tress' tips. These runners tend to be teenagers who are just learning the trade and hope to be promoted to wait positions and larger tip income.

                BTW>>what a manager can and cannot do legally is jurisdictional. Your blanket statement is not accurate throughout the USA (and I do have a Juris Doctor degree and have studied labor law).

                1. re: bagelman01

                  My bad.

                  The tip pooling law is in MA.

                  Top of the Hub ran afoul of it several years ago.

                  What are the laws in other states?

                  I am curious.

                  1. re: bagelman01


                    That's all?


                    They are being exploited and not in a way that is educational or upwardly mobile.

                    That is shameful.

                    I would never knowingly dine at such an establishment.

                    I was a busser in the 70's and we made that then and we weren't even servers.


                    1. re: postemotional1

                      15%, but as I understand it, they get paid a much higher hourly rate than servers.

                      1. re: postemotional1

                        15% of each of the servers tips. equating to .75 of a point to the 1 full point granted to a server. if there are 4 servers on and one food runner. the tip pool consists of 4.75 points. the total of the tips is then divided by 4.75. the value of one point is determined and given to each server. then 3/4 of the point is given to the runner. its not only 15% of the total. its 15% less than the total.

                  2. re: bagelman01

                    I don't like it when the waiter/ress only takes the order and presents the check. This is not enough service to justify the wiater/ress getting a full tip on the check.
                    unfortunately this has been my experience more often than not in recent years. i can't stand it when the food arrives and the server is nowhere to be found. the person who took the order should be present when it hits the table to ensure that everything is satisfactory...and in my experience these days that's rarely the case.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Usually a restaurant that has a food runner system has an "expediter" at the window where the food comes out and their job is to check the orders to make sure they're complete and correct before summoning a food runner to deliver it. Cheesecake Factory is a perfect example of the system using an expediter and runners.